In the Instagram age of yoga, it is easier than ever to slip into the pitfalls of comparison and goal-setting. While many of us know some philosophy, some history, some essence of yoga, we only really see the physical postures emphasized and reinforced in the marketing of this practice. But Instagram yogis and yoga studios can’t completely be blamed for this. We are constantly being bombarded by all sorts of marketing media, and yoga asana’s (postures) are an effective way of catching eye. Sometimes this is even what brings some people into the doors of their first class. However, the current social media culture of yoga does not help tone down the competitive mindset we usually have when entering class.
We are always told to not compare with the people next to us and not hold a rigid image of what our practice should look like in our minds. But how realistic is this? And, if we put these aside, does our physical practice suffer? In my experience, it is very realistic once I realized that my practice progressed the fastest and fulfilled me more when I put comparison and goal-setting aside.
I’ve done my most transformative personal work when I didn’t have a goal in mind. I find that an answer is already in the difficulty I am trying to navigate, whether it’s in the physical or meditative practices of yoga. Sometimes, having a goal caused me to already project certain expectations and insecurities on where I was in the present instead of truly looking. I would try textbook methods and forced my body to do what I thought it needed rather than diligently taking the time to honestly look at what was not working. With goal-setting, there is the ever-present shame of not getting there yet. With intention-setting, that disappears and is replaced with genuine exploration. A goal is something in the future that does not currently exist. An intention is something that is actionable and tangible right now.
If you are afraid of letting go of the striving mind, know that only abundance can come from accepting and loving where you are, without shame or judgment. When we drop goal-setting in our yoga practice, more creative paths and possibilities open, especially ones that are more suitable for you than the textbook methods. Next time you practice, try turning your awareness to invite a sense of direction, of moving towards, rooted in the present, rather than latching onto the idea of a goal pose. It may feel awkward without a destination at first, but with time, more creative paths will open in your practice.